CHESTER -- Among Chester football coach Maurice Flowers' top priorities, beginning his first season last spring, was to find ways to replace points. The Cyclones were losing 10 scholarship athletes -- three to Division I schools -- to graduation.
Players of the C.C. Whitlock and Gene McCaskill ilk are hard to replace. But Flowers has done it, and more.
Flowers assessed the football team when he arrived and was made aware of the Cyclones' lack of a kicker for extra points, field goals and kickoffs.
Chester athletics director Ricky Campbell has been at the school long enough to know the athletes and their families. He recommended a soccer player, rising junior Marshall Whitesides. Whitesides' older brother had kicked for Chester.
Flowers talked with Whitesides and asked him to play.
Whitesides, a center midfielder on the soccer team, told the coach he wanted to think about it and talk it over with his parents. He waited until the last day of school to tell Flowers he would play.
"I had to look at replacing points," Flowers said. "Gene McCaskill and C.C. Whitlock were graduating. I needed to recruit a kicker."
Chester attempted one field goal last year. It came in The Herald Jamboree. Whitlock was the kicker, and his boot didn't clear the offensive line.
The team abandoned the kicking game altogether last year. No more field goal attempts. No more PAT tries, either. They went for two-point conversions the rest of the way.
In the state championship game against Wilson last year, the Cyclones were denied twice on two-point conversions and lost, 14-12.
"I knew (Whitesides) knew something about kicking from his brother," Flowers said. "After talking with the young man, before I even watched him kick, I felt like he could do it. Then I saw him kick, without any practice, I knew he would be fine."
At practice on Wednesday, Whitesides went through his normal routine. He recruited sophomore Austin Kerr as a holder. Kerr is a highly touted pitcher on the Cyclones baseball team, according to Flowers.
Brian Caston is the long snapper. He played linebacker on the JV team and is "a very talented athlete, not just a good long snapper," Flowers said.
"It's not much of an adjustment. Just getting the timing right," Whitesides said, comparing football to soccer. "They tried to get me to play last year."
Instead, Whitesides and his two friends watched the state championship game from the stands. Little did they know they would be playing for the same title a year later.
"He is money inside the 20," Caston said.
Caston remembered Whitlock's field goal attempt in the Jamboree. "The kick hit the center right in the butt," he laughed.
"(Whitesides) hit one against A.C. Flora and made one from 38 versus Berea," Kerr said.
Chester hasn't had a game come down to a PAT or a field goal this season. Whitesides' first field goal of the season was the first for Chester in 10 years.
But Whitesides' field goal against Clinton in the third round of the playoffs, Flowers said, was huge.
"He was responsible for putting us up two scores. That was very key to getting us that win," Flowers said.
Chester went on to win 24-14 to advance to the Upper State championship game at Daniel, which they won last week 27-24 to set up Saturday's state title game against Myrtle Beach, a 51-50 double-overtime winner over Marlboro County last week.
"We feel like every game we have to be perfect on extra points and field goals," Flowers said. "That is the emphasis we put on it. We feel like every time the kicking team is on the field, it is a 'must-have' situation."
Karl Lyles • 329-4032